Why I Have Tattoos

I’m not here to tell you things that people with tattoos are tired of hearing or to angrily defend my right to have tattoos. I get it. They aren’t for everyone and that’s fine. I’m just here to tell you why I have them and why they are important to me (and they are extremely important to me).

Let me start by saying that tattooers are talented and inspired artists. Not only do they have the imagination to create a piece of artwork and the skills to actualize it, but they are then tasked with putting their art on a canvas that is pliable, imperfect, and moving. That’s incredible if you ask me.

Their purpose is the same as other artists. It’s not uncommon for someone to go to the Bob Ross’s of the world and say, “Make me something beautiful that I can hang in my home and look at whenever I need to remember something important to me.” With tattoos, It’s the same thing. I’m going to an artist and saying, “Make me something beautiful that I can carry with me always and look at when I need to be reminded of something important.”

I am a believer that every tattoo has meaning. Whether it’s a breast cancer ribbon reminding you of someone you loved firmly and lost or the Tasmanian Devil eating a slice of pizza that makes you smile whenever you look at it, they all serve a purpose. The beautiful thing about tattoos is they don’t have to mean anything to anyone other than the person attached to them. They can be for everyone or they can be a secret just between you and your ink.

And their meaning is a very important to the owner. The first tattoo I ever got was two words written very small on the inside of my wrist. Only smiles. No, it’s not fancy and yes, I am aware how cheesy it sounds. However, I got it right after my freshman year of college. It was a really hard year for me and a lot of things happened that left me with few reasons to smile. Having that reminder on my skin whenever I turned over my arm encouraged me to keep my head up even when it wasn’t easy.

No, maybe that’s not a message I need daily anymore, but that doesn’t mean I’m not glad it’s on me. Now it serves as a reminder of a time when I had to be stronger than I felt and that I can do it again if I need to.

I have scars from falling down porch stairs and tripping into my fireplace ledge. You can see them above my eye or in the thin line on the top of my right foot. My tattoos are markers for the scars that you can’t see. They are the memories of challenges I’ve faced that have changed the way I think.

That’s why it doesn’t bother me that I’m going to carry them with me until the day I die. As I age, they will age with me and together we will become an antique, picture-book novel of who I am. They are not just words and pretty pictures. They are my story. Some people keep a journal, I put my journal on my body.

It’s written in permanent ink that I can read it again and again so I never forget the moments that led me here.

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